Return to Campus Update

Update 8/4/20

While we have done everything in our power to prepare an application for opening grades 1-6 this fall on campus via the waiver mentioned in prior communications, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health announced late this afternoon that it will not review or accept any waiver applications. According to the State of California’s guidance, the County should not consider any waiver applications until its case rate is less than 200 per 100,000 residents. Currently, the LA County case rate stands at 355 per 100,000. As we shared previously, kindergarten students will still have the choice to return to campus as of August 31, under the licensure of our Early Childhood Center (ECC), which will also be on campus. Once County numbers decrease and we are given the go-ahead from local government, we are fully prepared to immediately pivot and provide on campus instruction as an option for all VBSDS students. As we conclude a very successful one month session of Camp Kef on campus, we are confident that VBS has set protocols in place for a safe return to both work and school.


Regardless of how our extraordinary education is delivered, VBSDS will continue to be a vibrant community full of caring families, building connections together. We realize that for some families, the prospect of beginning the year with virtual learning is disappointing and possibly even overwhelming. We hear you, and we are committed to helping parents and students prepare to maximize the virtual experience, which is the only option for teaching grades 1-6 at this time. Our incredible Director of Student Support Services, Nicol Katzir, will continue to guide us with parenting tips, techniques for supporting student social and emotional health, and will help us through the disruption of our day-to-day lives brought on by COVID-19.

We are fully prepared to launch Virtual VBSDS. After reflecting on all that we learned this spring, we have made significant improvements. Over the summer, teachers attended online courses and workshops to learn new skills to enhance the online class experience. We saw firsthand how powerfully our teachers were able to connect with students through synchronous (live) classes and we also learned that we need to balance our students’ minds, bodies and souls. This year, we will create schedules rooted in social emotional learning. We will encourage “brain breaks” and movement, connecting in a synchronous fashion with peers and instructors, and encouraging self-motivation through asynchronous lessons. We will also use assessments to provide additional information for teachers to meet the needs of each unique learner. Home practice in certain disciplines (homework) will be added to our virtual program, and teachers will evaluate students in all subject areas using the academic grading system reflected on report cards. Creating lessons that are more interactive, learning to engage reticent students, and examining new strategies and techniques to use when teaching math are just a few examples of the professional development workshops attended by our incredible staff. 

We are thrilled to welcome our new Director of Academic Technology, Nathaniel Hanna. Nathaniel comes to us with experience, expertise, and enthusiasm. Most recently, he worked at Odyssey Charter School. He will direct our Boudai Family Innovation Lab, teach innovation classes at all grade levels, and will act as the primary provider of professional development in the area of technology. He is already working to establish a more streamlined approach to assist students and teachers with technology integration, and is exploring new and improved security filters to help parents monitor student activity online. Nathaniel has been evaluating the online learning protocols and staying abreast of current trends. He continues to network with other technology professionals and schools to make sure that our program is robust, rigorous and engaging.     
We hope to introduce you to your instructors and share the grade rosters very soon. We have designed interactive experiences for your children to connect with their teachers and friends. These opportunities will either be online, via a drive-through format, or both. 

For me personally, this time has been one full of the emotions I associate with wandering in the wilderness. On the one hand, we have been planning and building with little to no guidance as to what this may look like or how it will unfold. On the other hand, the light of our community and the leadership of our administration, and especially our outstanding teachers, has given me great faith that this will be a year of innovation, ingenuity, and creativity. Let’s model for our children what grit and resilience look like and how we gain strength by banding together and opting into our community at this time. 

Kindergarten Update

Update 7/22/20

In a continued effort to keep you up-to-date on our plans for Fall 2020, we want to share the exciting news that kindergarten families will have the option to have their students either on campus for learning or “Zooming-in” virtually from home. 

As you may know, our VBS ECC plans to operate its program on campus this fall with strong safety measures in place. This opening is allowed in accordance with the school’s license and its classification as an essential operation. Our kindergarten program will be administered and taught by VBSDS, however, the licensure will be from the ECC. We are grateful that the ECC’s current license allows for this, and for their partnership.

As a school rooted in social emotional learning, we believe it is developmentally important to provide an on campus learning option so that our students have a fulfilling and impactful experience. Through our shared work with the ECC, this is now possible for our kindergarteners. For grades 1-6, we continue to work tirelessly to explore all opportunities for a safe return to campus this fall, with “Zoom-in” options for those who feel safer at home. This includes researching the submission of an elementary school waiver for reopening under safety guidelines and regulations, which we already have in place. We will be in touch as we learn more.

Reopening Task Force

Rabbi Schuldenfrei is working to oversee all of the following teams and to be sure that they are communicating with each other and collaborating as much as possible. She continues to work with VBS, the VBSDS Board of Trustees and the Heads of Schools in Los Angeles and the California Association of Independent Schools. Rabbi Schuldenfrei is also leading a task force on reopening that includes board members, parents and leaders from other independent schools.


Safety Protocols and Systems

List of 5 items.

  • Athletics

    • All student activities will be guided by local health official requirements and governing bodies
    • We are designing experiences for both in-person and virtual modalities
    • Our creative coaches are already planning for outdoor physically distant, engaging and safe activities for our students
  • Campus Environment

    • Updated furniture has been ordered to best meet the needs of students while keeping physical distance
    • Signage for physically distanced movement are placed throughout campus and will be observed
    • Staggered drop-off and pick-up times will be part of the school schedule
    • Access to campus will be limited to faculty, staff, and students.  At this time, parents and visitors will access campus remotely or visit only with special permission.  Our hope is that as restrictions ease, we will be able to welcome everyone back.
    • Large events will remain online, including Kabbalat Shabbat, celebrations, Parent Organization meetings, and admission events.
  • Health and Safety

    • Masks will be required for everyone: faculty, staff and students
    • Each day, all people entering campus will have their temperature checked and answer health screening questions
    • Handwashing will be scheduled and frequent
    • Hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes will be available in each classroom and around campus
    • Each classroom will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected each evening with the additional use of a new Clorox Total 360 disinfectant spray system
    • High-touch surfaces and bathrooms will be cleaned and disinfected throughout the day
    • Students will bring lunch or have the option to purchase lunches through LA|Kosher (further details to come)
    • No-touch sinks, soap dispensers and hand dryers in restrooms have already been installed
  • Health and Wellness

    • Our full time school nurse, Marcie Spetner, R.N. will continue to inform our protocols and will continue to work with students during the school day
    • Our nurse’s office is being renovated to include an isolation room as recommended by the CDC
    • Our Director of Student Support Services will be available on campus as well as virtually
    • Our partnership with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence (RULER) will continue to support the social-emotional well-being of all students. 
    • Faculty and staff will continue to meet weekly to address morale and well-being and celebrate meaningful moments
  • Kehillot

    • To maintain physical distancing, students will be grouped into grade-level learning communities, Kehillot, of 12-16 students and will physically remain with this group of classmates for all school activities.
    • When creating learning communities, we will make every effort to support students’ academic, social, and emotional needs. In some cases, there may be three Kehillot per grade level, and we are staffing accordingly. 
    Classes may at times be taught in outdoor spaces.

List of 3 items.

  • Health and Safety

    Coach Sam Schwerdtfeger, Orit Rappaport, Nurse Marcie Spetner R.N., Renee Kalmanson

    This joint team between the temple and Day School is working to design the best safety and well-being protocols for all community members. These protocols will be continually re-evaluated throughout the school year.
  • Operations

    Karin Mendel, Matthew Weintraub, Orit Rappaport

    This team is working to designclassroom spaces to allow for physical distancing protocols to meet health and hygiene standards. New furniture and plexiglass dividers have been ordered to further allow for physical distancing.
  • Teaching and Learning

    Nancy Herbst, Tamar Raff, Nora Moreno

    This team is working to design a schedule to reopen school in-person. Providing faculty professional development to maximize teaching and learning is another important aspect of our planning. Our priority is to make academic decisions that will encourage the most growth in our students while adhering to the health and safety protocols that will lead us through this time. 

Our Commitment to You

We know there are no guarantees that the 2020-2021 school year will proceed without interruption, despite our new health protocols and increased safety measures. We are committed to keeping our lines of communication open and to clearly communicate our plans. We know there are different rules for temporary closures depending on the specific situation and we will make the best decisions, with guidance from a team of doctors and health advisors, to ensure our community continues to thrive.

In case of a school closure, we will pivot to our robust “Virtual VBSDS” online program until it is deemed safe to return to our learning communities on campus.

Ultimately, every one of us has a role to play in making our plan a success. We must all do our part this summer to slow the spread of COVID-19 by wearing masks, avoiding gatherings, and limiting our community’s exposure. 

Thank you to all of the professionals and lay leaders who have supported us during this challenging time. We are more grateful than ever for our caring, warm and thoughtful community.